By Molly Patrick
Sep 3, 2014
Two weeks ago, I took a swan dive into the subject of phytochemicals and why they’re so important.
Today I want to talk about the difference between appetite and true hunger.
The absence of micronutrients in the diet (vitamins, minerals and the all important bad-ass phytochemicals) lead to weight gain because it increases your appetite, but not your true hunger.
Follow me over to bus stop #1 and I’ll explain:
There are two phases of digestion.
1) Anabolic Phase
The anabolic phase is when we eat and digest food.
2) Catabolic Phase
The catabolic phase is when we’re not eating or digesting.
This second phase is super important because when the body isn’t hard at work digesting it has the opportunity to heal and repair itself. It does this by cleaning out toxins and detoxifying our system.
This can only happen during the catabolic phase of digestion.
With me so far?
The toxins that the body cleans out during that second phase of digestion come from crappy processed food, sugar, alcohol, second hand smoke, carbon dioxide, toxic household cleaners and beauty products, and impure water, just to name a few.
What you need to understand is the body is a self-repairing MACHINE, always trying to keep up with the toxic lives that we lead by maintaining consistent health and balance, even when we’re bombarding it with crap.
This balancing act is also known as homeostasis and it’s pretty fucking rad.
Let’s see what’s over at bus stop #2:
I want to explain what happens when we eat lots of crappy processed foods (vegan or not).
This is where things start to get wonky.
When we get to the second phase of digestion (catabolic phase) – the self-healing, repair phase, the body gets to work, removing toxins through the bloodstream. And what happens when toxins surge through the bloodstream? We feel like shit on a stick. Headaches, exhaustion, body aches, brain fog, nausea, and general lethargy can all be part of the detox ride.
When these uncomfortable symptoms appear, we naturally reach for food because guess what?
When we eat and digest we go back to that first phase of digestion, the anabolic phase, and when that happens, we are no longer in repair mode, so the body stops cleaning out toxins. Since there are no more toxins surging through the system (at the moment anyway), the detox symptoms momentarily stop and we no longer feel like shit.
So when the diet is filled with lots of crap food, we keep eating not because we’re truly hungry, but because our appetite tells us to keep eating so that we can feel better and stop the discomfort of detoxing.
And here’s the thing.
We’re not even conscious that the reason we keep eating is to stop the detox symptoms.
Remember how I told you that the body is always trying to reach homeostasis? Well part of homeostasis is feeling good.
And this is the vicious cycle that plays out when we eat too much processed fat, sugar and salt and not enough nutrient rich foods.
Unfortunately, the diet that leads perfectly to this bat-shit crazy cycle is The Standard American Diet. Boo-ya! There is work to be done!
Hop on over to bus stop #3 with me and let’s look at the flip side of all this:
Now that you know what the body goes through when we eat crap food, let’s talk about what happens when we eat whole plant foods filled with micronutrients (AKA really damn healthy).
Well, it’s kind of crickets over here because there’s not actually much to report.
When we get to the second phase of digestion, the catabolic phase (self-healing repair phase), we feel perfectly fine because we’re not having an avalanche of toxins going through our system.
The body does what it needs to do and we don’t feel a thing. We feel energized, we don’t have headaches and we don’t feel the need to eat again until we’re actually hungry. And when we do get hungry it’s not urgent.
Let’s put this theory to test.
Think back to a time when you ate a huge unhealthy dinner. Maybe it was lots of pizza, lots of Buffalo wings and ranch dressing over bacon for dessert. Maybe it was steak and gravy. Or maybe you just binged on a block of cheese and a box of crackers.
Do you remember feeling tired and not so hot after you ate it? I’m guessing yes.
Compare that to a time you had a big green salad with lots of veggies and a healthy, no-oil dressing for lunch (kind of like the one below).
No food coma after you ate, right?
Now you know why.
So if appetite is just a craving or a way to stop feeling crappy, what is true hunger?
Bus stop #4 has the answer:
We only get truly hungry when our brain is getting low on the glucose.
The brain can turn amino acids from muscle tissue into glucose, but our body much prefers that we just eat food instead, so it triggers hunger. Basically we get hungry only when our brain needs to eat (creepy visual, I know).
And when we’re truly hungry we actually feel it in our throats and mouth, not our stomach. When we’re truly hungry, our taste buds get extra sensitive so food tastes better than it would if we weren’t hungry.
Again, the human body is amazing and miraculous.
Here’s another thing that will change the way that you think about how much you eat.
When we feed our body truly healthy micronutrient rich food, we never have to worry about how much to eat or counting calories.
Our bodies are precise computers directing us to approximately 25 calories of what we need to consume each day.
That’s right. Our body knows almost exactly how much to eat to maintain our ideal, lean body mass. And this is why counting calories is not necessary when we’re eating the right way. Our body will do it for us and we won’t even know it.
We just eat when we’re hungry, stop when we’re no longer hungry, and repeat. We only gain weight when we eat outside of the demands of true hunger.
WAY easier than adding up points and trying to keep track of macronutrients.
Now that you have all this awesome info, you might be wondering what the hell to eat and what to avoid to reach true hunger. Our weekly Plant Fueled Meal Plans have you covered. All you have to do is follow along and I do the rest.
If you’re buying salad dressing from the store or making it with lots of oil, try making this one instead. You’ll be hooked in the best possible way!
- 1/4 cup raw cashews 30g, soaked for at least 10 minutes
- 1 tablespoon raw sesame seeds 10g
- 1 garlic clove grated
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar 15ml
- Juice of 1 orange about 1/3 cup / 80ml
- 1/4 cup water 60ml
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- Soak the cashews for at least 10 minutes.
- Drain the cashews and place them in a blender along with the rest of the ingredients and blend until creamy and smooth.
- Store in the fridge and eat within 4 days.